CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns fans believe they have found their franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield and after 20 years of futility in the AFC, that they are destined for long playoff runs and a celebratory parade…or several.
Milwaukee Brewers slugger Christian Yelich understands why people are confident in Mayfield, whom he worked out with in California ahead of the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine after the Oklahoma Sooners were eliminated from the College Football Playoff.
“If you spend five minutes with the kid, you can see why they feel that way,” Yelich said at the 2019 MLB All-Star Game Media Day in Cleveland Monday.
Yelich found a kinship with Mayfield because of the success he has had on the football field, as sometimes, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player finds it hard to relate to his friends who are not professional athletes.
“We kind of overlapped for a few months, and we’d be in there at the same time, so anytime you’re in there with other athletes, there’s always a banter that goes back and forth,” Yelich said.
“It led to us becoming friends, and it’s something that we’ll be able to sustain over the years. I think it’s relatable. You can relate to other athletes in sports, just the lifestyle, the competitiveness, the drive, and you can learn a lot of things from people in sports.
“With someone who is, you can talk to them about that. You experience similar things in life, and him being a leader and the way he conducts himself, the way that others are drawn to him, I think that helps you improve in your own sport.”
After taking over the first-team offense in the second quarter of a come-from-behind win over the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland in Week 3, Mayfield completed 310 of his 486 attempts (63.8 percent) for 3,725 yards and 27 touchdowns against 14 interceptions.
Although Mayfield does not get official credit for the victory over the Jets because he came on in relief of an injured Tyrod Taylor, the first-year quarterback guided the Browns to seven wins and the greatest single-year turnaround in franchise history.
Individually, Mayfield set franchise records for the most passing touchdowns and yards by a rookie, and his 3,725 yards rank as the sixth-best single season in team history, regardless of years of service. Additionally, Mayfield had three of the top five passing yards games by a rookie, as well as the fourth-most accurate season of any Browns quarterback ever.
With new Browns coach Freddie Kitchens calling the plays as the interim offensive coordinator during the second half of the 2018 season, Mayfield completed 180 of his 263 attempts (68.4 percent) for 2,254 yards and 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
“He’s a great leader,” Yelich said. “He’s somebody that’s incredibly confident, and I think that’s infectious to others around him and a big reason why all the teams he plays on are successful. People are drawn to him and want to play for him and with him.”